Les Enfants Rouges

Les Enfants Rouges

To be honest, I’m not one to run to the newest restaurant right after it opens. The main reason being that I don’t like being disappointed, nor do I like eating bad food. It happened recently at a new place in town that had gotten some good press (which, suspiciously, may have been because they were invited guests), and found myself wishing I’d shelled out a few bucks for a sandwich jambon-beurre instead of a hundred or so euros for a meal that was misguided, with the food being mediocre, at best.

Les Enfants Rouges

The company made up for it, fortunately. So when a fellow (or fella?) San Franciscan was in town recently, it was Sunday night and she asked me where we should go for good food. Sunday’s tough because many places in Paris are closed. Some restaurateurs point the 35 hour work week, which was intended to employ more people and let people work less. And part of it are employee costs, which make it pricey to hire new people. So if you’re wondering why small restaurants in Paris don’t have dedicated people to answer the phone and take reservations, or are closed on weekends, those are some of the reasons.

Les Enfants Rouges

I’d heard good things about Les Enfants Rouges, which is adjacent to the small, but busy covered market of the same name, that is a hodge-podge of restaurants (including a very good Japanese one) and food stands. I’d eaten there before and had the interesting experience of talking to the chef/owner, and letting him know how I felt how he could improve the main course I had. In the case of the place I mentioned in the first paragraph, I was rather straightforward because I felt it was my duty to make sure that no one else gets served eleven limp French fries lined up on a rectangular plate.

At Les Enfants Rouges, the food was far better and on the way out, I spoke with Daï Shinozuka (whose wife runs the dining room) and mentioned the pairing in my main course of a briny, raw oyster with warm oxtail stew, which was a bit jarring. I suggested a liaison to bring the two together – perhaps doing an oyster tempura, maybe with some horseradish in the batter.

The chef was considering it, which is always a sign of a good chef/cook – inspiration comes from everywhere; guest feedback, reading, eating out, etc. and even if my idea didn’t pan out, from the look on his face, he was a bit intrigued. (And in other news, I recently discovered that the French fry place had stopped lining the eleven French fries on a plate, and serving them as they should be served – piled up.)

Because Chef Shinozuka cooked at Le Comptoir de Relais, which has excellent charcuterie, you should order whatever is offered in that department as a shared first course at Les Enfants Rouges. The terrines and cured sausages here are some of the best you’ll have in Paris.

Les Enfants Rouges

I started with a delicious small amuse of a marvelously smoky bacon-flavored cream atop of warm puddle of delicate potato puree, because the third in our party was recovering from a bout of tummy troubles, he was content to have a dark chicken bouillon with bits of walnuts for his first course. I didn’t dip in (perhaps wisely, since I didn’t want to get what he had) but he liked it.

My marinated mi-cuit (partially cooked) dorade was pleasant, if uneventful. A small tangle of rice noodles sat underneath and I was craving some pickles to give the dish a bit of sharpness and bite. Perhaps the chef has been catering to more subdued palettes, but I think he has the talent to be a little more daring. Why not go for it?

Les Enfants Rouges

Because it was a chilly winter night in Paris, the main that called to me on this visit was braised pork cheek with root vegetables. There was no shellfish sharing the plate this time, but it was covered with foam, whose flavor I was unable to discern. And I’m also unable to discern why chefs in Paris (and elsewhere) are still fascinated by foam. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against foam, or innovation. But if you’re going to use it, it should have a purpose.

Les Enfants Rouges

If you want to have the baba au rhum for dessert, it needs to be ordered at the start of the meal, presumably because it gets cooked to order. One of us wisely ordered it, and because I was in the middle of an overeating cycle due to the holiday season, for me, dessert was perles du Japon (tapioca) with tropical fruits that could have used a bit more sugar, perhaps in the form of a drizzle of palm or coconut sugar sauce.

Les Enfants Rouges

The Guanaja ganache with a bitter Campari sauce didn’t marry the two diverse ingredients very well, but the excellent baba au rhum with a generous drizzle of Saint James and a fleurette of whipped cream was a nice send off from this charming little bistro.

Les Enfants Rouges



Les Enfants Rouges
9, rue de Beauce (3rd)
Tél: 01 48 87 80 61
Métro: Temple or Filles du Calvaire

36 comments

  • i do love the atmosphere of that market adjacent to les enfants rouges – went there on a rainy summer day in – it was a lovely way to be inside and outside at the same time. all the dishes here look gorgeous. hope the chef follows up on some of your ideas!

  • I’ve always heard great things about this place. Definitely one to try one of these days!

  • I detest foam and think it should go the way of tall food and squeeze bottles. It’s an affectation that has worn out its welcome, especially, if doesn’t have a discernible flavor or reason to be in the dish. It just looks as is someone spat on your food. Everything else looks pretty nice,including the decor. Too bad the chef was playing it too safe. But, as you said, it was Sunday night in Paris and sometimes you’re just grateful to find any place decent to go.

  • Despite the foam, I might add.
    Agree, Gene!

  • As others suggested above:
    foam!! Such an overrated thing, I thought it was going out of vogue.

  • I find that even the most critically acclaimed new restaurants need a couple of weeks (if not months) to sort out their growing pains….whether it be fine tuning dishes or betterig the service there’s always some room for improvement. Hoping the so far dismal Pizzeria Mozza in SD shapes up soon.

  • Looks like soap bubbles left on a poorly rinsed dish.

  • That’s funny about the eleven limp French fries lined up on a plate, like something got lost in the dish translation. Agree about the foam, ugh, but the baba au rhum looks wonderful. You should be a restaurant consultant if there is such a thing.

  • David, I’m with you on the foam thing. For starters, it is ooold! It serves no purpose. Also, I hate it when they over-decorate with Tweezers, dust or smear sauces and spices. If the sauce is good, why serve only a smear?

  • I think the phone number is wrong. Phone numbers in Paris starts with 01.
    Loved the article btw :-)

  • My husband and I had dinner twice here in late Nov. And we plan on going back in April.. Very solicitous service and nice plates including a wonderful pintade. I hope they will still be open on Sunday.

  • Agree with Ty. Foam makes me think of dish soap on my food. Never saw a reason for it and, frankly, it’s just too pretentious for me. If the foam has a flavor that needs to be with the dish, then make it a sauce.

  • To Ty, ClaireD and Lebovitz: My first thought when I saw the picture was “Someone spit on the food!”

  • So … it was good-but-not-great? Not a very enthusiastic review, I must say. Too bad that chefs sometimes create things on the fly, without giving much thought to what might actually pair with the rest of the plate. Almost like he/she walked around the kitchen, spooning random things onto the dinner plate. Too bad.

    On the other hand, thanks for the review. Your descriptions are, as always, excellent. Better, I suspect, than the meal was. Bravo.

  • Read about this restaurant while in Paris before Christmas in the Saturday magazine of Le Monde…& then we happened upon it, a little later just by chance! Had a fabulous lunch, the best of our stay we thought…that bouillon with walnuts was outstanding, I still dream of it. Deep but light. Anyway, very interesting to read your thoughts, as always!

  • The foam reminds me of childhood, trying to bubble out saliva to see who can produce the most bubbles. Not something I want to eat.

    And the twee tweezers to “stage” food – was reading a wine and food forum recently where someone was boasting of the 10″ tweezers they received as a holiday gift. I know food should appeal in looks and taste (among other things) but someone is going overboard on the looks when 10″ tweezers come into play.

  • The soup (?) in the third photo looks really good… was it a cream of champignons? I have a tray of those at home and am always looking for new ways to cook them (then again, if you didn’t mention it in your post it was probably nothing to write home about…).

  • Gene (and others): I don’t mind foam, although like any culinary technique or “trick”, it should be used to enhance the dish. A number of the young French chefs in Paris are using it still, for a variety of reasons. I’m more into using fresh/great ingredients, and preparing them well. To me, that’s usually enough. The chef here does source good ingredients – so let ‘em shine!

    Romain: Thanks. I thought the number was an 09 number, but fixed it. (I always link to the original website so folks can check as well.)

    Nuts about food: It’s scallops with mushrooms. I didn’t try it because my dining companion was eating it and I don’t like to reach over and take food off other people’s plates when the portion is intended for one. (I know if I had 3 scallops, I would not want to give one up!)

  • The mushroom (soup?) also caught my eye, but I’m attracted to them in any form. I like the look of place– despite the foam (ugh) –and will put it on my list! (Finally coming summer of ’15.) Do love your descriptions.

  • very nice post.
    I tested it few weeks ago, I really liked it but the place has two major defaults :
    -the decoration is awfull and can ruins your romantic diner
    -the wine list is quitte poor comparing the hight level of the food.

    I did’nt writte any post because of that. I will test it again in few weeks and I will concentrate myself on the food …

    Fabrice

  • What was the cost of this meal? You may have mentioned it, but I am assuming it is pricey. Really too mant things wrong for me t try it. The raw oyster in the ox soup was my early finale. Thanks for telling us about this.

  • I wish you posted that a month ago when I was in Paris. Next time!

  • Is the restaurant named after the vinyard?

    T.

  • Teresa: The restaurant is named for the market that it’s adjacent to, called the Marché des Enfants Rouges.

    Josephone: The fixed 3-course menu (which multiple choices in each of the 3 categories) is approximately €35 per person for dinner, not including wine.

  • I am not familiar with “Saint James” is it a liqueur?

    I agree with all the comments about foam. It has become so overused here in the States – chefs seem to think they are being innovative when they are merely following a trend that has overstayed it’s welcome.

  • The comment about the smear of sauce reminded me of a friend who took his wife to Paris for their anniversary and to a special dinner at a Michelin star restaurant pre-arranged by their son. He send me pictures of the many dishes they had, They were tasty and beautifully presented but none were more than a tablespoon of food. They stopped for a burger on the way back to their apartment.

  • I feel that you found more wrong with this restaurant than you did right and wonder why
    you are (sorta) recommending it?
    I love reading your thoughts no matter what and no matter where…

    • People sometimes tell me that I should write negative reviews about places I don’t like. But I prefer to point people toward places that I think they’ll like and that I find interesting. (I do restaurant round-ups in my monthly newsletter, and I do point out places that I didn’t like there.) I liked Les Enfants Rouges on both visits. There were a few things that I felt they could change, but on the whole, I think if people eat here, they’ll have a nice time.

  • Looks great–except for the foam. Foam doesn’t look like food and it has unpleasant connotations-bathwater, or what the dog does if he picks up a toad. Hold the foam, please, elsewhere, like the sink.

  • Sorry to comment in a completely off topic way but I just wanted to say that while you’re shivering through a European winter, we in Southern Australia are sweating through a heat wave and ‘the perfect scoop’ has been my saviour! Today it is 45 degrees C and tomorrow it will be 46 :-/ no idea what that is in Farenheit (115?) but it’s hot!! My ice cream maker is working overtime, especially making frozen yoghurt which seems more digestible in this weather. On the weekend we went to a local strawberry farm and picked mountains of juicy red berries which have made the most gorgeous juicy red berries. I added some elderflower cordial to them and have been eating the resultant frozen yoghurt for breakfast and dinner. Ice cream for breakfast is allowed when it’s this hot, right?

  • I love foam, though it does seem out of place on a heavy winter dish like braised meat and root vegetables… When it’s well-used, it enhances my sensory experience even if only visually. It’s super fun, I don’t find it pretentious at all, but I guess it depends on how finessed it in your dish. A couple times I’ve seen photo’s of dishes where it’s looking quite earthy, almost primal, like maybe a very excited snail passed through the garden recently…lol, and that has given my stomach pause, but I generally really appreciate the creative effort. Food should be fun as well as taste delicious, I feel. Why not?

  • Ugh–foam. Unless it’s on my cafe au lait, it always makes me think someone has spat on the food. I’m glad its novelty has passed in the U.S., at least.

  • I always appreciate your candor, and taste is subjective. That being said, I ate at this bistro twice around the New Year and believe it is much better than “mediocre.” See my post at eatingfrench.com.

  • I have to say, I DO have something against foam. It’s a trend I wish would die. Especially when it looks like the stuff in your picture, which is to say….spittle. Yuk.

  • Gayle, Hope, Linda and June2: Thanks to everyone for chiming in. I think most of what could be said about foam has been said – and it obviously isn’t for everyone. (Perhaps some of the chefs using it will take notice, although as mentioned, I don’t really mind it if it adds something to the dish.) Am happy that folks have something to say, but I think it’s understood that some Paris chefs might want to dial down the sudsy stuff. So let’s move the conversation to something else : )

    Christine: I didn’t say Les Enfants Rouges was mediocre at all (in the first paragraph) – I said it about another place I had eaten at. Later I do say it was far better than the other place. I like Les Enfants Rouges and do try to highlight places on my site that I think readers will like and are worth visiting. (I’ll re-read the first graf again and modify it if it’s not clear, in case it gives readers the wrong impression.)